Disclosure: Some posts on this blog are sponsored, meaning that I received goods, services, or monetary payment for my writing. My opinions however, are not 'purchased' and are always 100% my own. Posts contain affiliate links that I earn a commission on. This disclosure is done in accordance with the FTC 10 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Oily Hair? - Not Your Mother's Clean Freak Review

I can't say that I've always been a big fan of spending a lot time on my hair. I have extra-dry, extra-wavy, extra-frizzy hair. My strands are a nightmare. Most days I just braid it to the back and forget it, since that seems to be the best way to keep everything under control.

But for date-night (and other events where I don't want people to see me looking like I stepped out of a prairie schoolhouse), I like to dress it up a bit. My hair-straightener is a favorite go-to, but it quite literally takes me hours to straighten my hair. After I put all that energy into it, there is no way I'm going to wash it the next morning because I want to look good for as long as possible! Sadly, I already only wash my hair every other day (it's sooo dry!) and I know that the max I can get out of my locks without looking like a grease-ball is three days. (Don't worry, I still wash, I just cover my hair up!)

When I got chosen as an Influenster Violet VoxBox tester, I was excited to see that I received some water-less shampoo from Not Your Mother's to try out. I received the sample to try for free, but please know that this review is completely my own! (And also voluntary, since writing one isn't a requirement, but more of a gesture of gratitude towards the company.) For more on my disclosure policy, please see the tab titled, 'Let me disclose to you'.

Now on to the review!

I was initially worried that the formula inside this bottle would be sticky for some reason. I've never used a water-less shampoo before, but had definitely heard of them. I didn't hear bad things about water-less shampoos, but I didn't hear good things either - and for me, testing out stuff on my hair is a big deal. My hair is too 'sensitive' to bombard it constantly with testing out mystery products.

The good? This stuff worked. I straightened my hair and then shower-capped it for four days. I wanted to see this water-less shampoo in action! I figure that my four days with extra-dry hair is equal to about the grease build-up of two days for someone with regular hair. I took before and after pics, and was actually really impressed with the look of my strands. Before, you can definitely see the shiny (not the good shiny either!) way my hair looks in the light. In the After picture the shine is toned down a lot, and my hair has more of a 'matte' look.


And my hair didn't feel sticky. If anything, I was a bit surprised that the After pictures didn't look even better because my hair felt very light and, well, clean! I investigated a bit and found that this 'shampoo' is really just a fine powder that is misted into your hair, causing it to absorb grease and reduce shine. Neat, huh?

Well, it was neat until I had to shower anyhow! The bad part? This stuff is powder! Have you ever dampened a wad of corn starch? No? I'll wait while you go do that now... ... ... What's that? Powder is nearly water-resistant? It will coat your strands and be difficult to get off like turtle wax?! It will strip your strands of all their oils and take several conditionings for them to get soft again? No!!!!! But yes, it's true. My hair was still misbehaving and acting extra-super-duper dry & frizzy for at least a week after that.

So we're at an impasse: We can keep that fancy 'do for an extra day or so, but only if we are willing to 'rough it' for a few days after that. I would imagine that someone with hair that isn't as naturally dry as mine would get their natural oils back much faster - but for me, it was quite troublesome!

Would I still use this though? Yes. But - only for a very special occasion. For instance, I don't wear fake nails on any sort of regular basis. But I would wear them (and have worn them) for special events. Things like prom, or getting married, or a weekend getaway with friends, family or co-workers. These are the times I'd like to look my best so it makes it worth it to use these extra products. This isn't a product I would use every day - or even every week - but it definitely has its place on our list of beauty necessities.

You can connect with Not Your Mother's on their website at www.nymbrands.com, or check out what they're doing in social media on any of their profiles here: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and tumblr.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Montagne Jeunesse Clay Spas Dead Sea Mud Spa Mask Review

I try hard to be feminine, but it doesn't always work out so hot for me. You see, I grew up on a farm. With a dad that liked engines. And I was the firstborn. Unfortunately I also grew up with a mom who I thought was a beauty-queen and the epitome of stay-at-home-momminess. I wanted to be a tomboy and a girly-girl at the same time. So although I can go for days - even weeks - without the need to do something pamper-y, when that need hits: look out! Not only do I want to do it up, but I want to do it up in style and absolutely everything needs to be done. For obvious reasons, this scares my husband witless. He fears not only for the crazy things I will do to my hair (like the 48-hour period in which I went from brown to blond to red!), but also a little for his bank account.

Spa Day At Home
You see, we're tight on money right now (and who isn't!?) so when I mention to him that I want a spa day, he gets a little pale in the face. He knows I haven't gotten my nails painted in months, my hair needs trimmed, I'm probably bored with the color, no one remembers the last time I got a facial, and I could use a foot scrub like nobody's business!! What my husband doesn't always realize is that since we have cut-back, I've been finding great ways to do all this stuff at home for myself. New nail polish (the beautiful, wonderful gel kind usually) is my new go-to for some killer nails. I've been trimming my own hair (and it's so curly no one ever notices if it's a little crooked) along with dying/highlighting my own hair at home. I've replaced those beautiful bubbly-moments in the spa soaking my feet in a hot-tub with a frequent regimen of lotions and a salt-soak in a bowl of hot water when the mood strikes me. And I've replaced my facials with at-home masks.

No, it isn't the same. Grouping up with a friend or your mom or sister helps some though! So does slipping into a robe and slippers and kicking the men and children out of the house for the day and lighting delicious-scented candles all over the place. I even wrote a little article a while back about how I like to create a spa day at home!
Influenster Reviewer
Even with all of that though, there is always some room for disappointment. The facial mask brand that I had been using (which shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) was doing not a whole lot more than making my face soft. I felt like I'd been putting pomegranate lotion on my face, smearing it on, and then wiping it off with a wet cloth every time. Just a yucky oily sort of feeling. Luckily for me, I was chosen by Influenster as a tester for their Violet VoxBox program, which just so happened to include a Montagne Jeunesse Dead Sea Mud Spa mask in it!

Although I received this mask for free from Influenster in order to do my testing, please know that any reviews or information I have chosen to put out about it are my own wording and 100% honest. (Not to mention voluntary, since this isn't a requirement of receiving the item, but more an appreciated gesture.) For more on my disclosure policy, please see the tab titled, 'Let me disclose to you'.

Dead Sea Mud Spa Mask ReviewFirst off, I'd just like to point out that this is not a typical facial mask. I thought that it was going to be a cream that you smeared onto your face. It isn't. It's a fabric mask that has been infused with the mud! How cool is that?

The mask was really easy to put on, and I never felt like it was going to fall off of my face. It smelled really good too (something I wasn't so sure about since I've never smelled the Dead Sea). And yes, the mask was refreshing, and smoothing, and it felt great on my skin. I feel clean and renewed. But that wasn't the best part.

Remember at the beginning when I told you I had a streak or so of tomboy in me thanks to my awesome dad? Well I used the ornery nature he instilled in me to freak my kids out. Both of them let out bone-chilling squeals and gave me looks of horrified dismay when I got up close and personal to them. My daughter (who is one) could only stare at me until I got a few inches away, and then she started grabbing at her dad to save her from me! I needed a good pick-me-up this week, and a round of laughter is usually a quick way to do it. I had fun, and after my kids saw that it was really only me under that mask, they thought it was pretty funny too. Plus, now we have some great footage for future home-movie montages.

On a more serious note though... the mask isn't pretty when you are wearing it. Facial masks are rarely pretty, but this one gave even me the creeps. It looked like I was wearing an old-fashioned Halloween mask, and it wasn't something I'd want others to see me in if I was trying to be glamorous. To get to my point: if you aren't comfortable looking a little silly with the girls, or a bit shocking around your husband - save this mask for a time when you are alone and not likely to be intruded upon. I don't really have a whole lot of self-consciousness anymore so I didn't care if my hubby saw me in it, but I have enough awareness to know that wouldn't be the case for everyone.

If you don't mind how you look for the 10-15 minutes it takes to wear a mask though, I would recommend checking into these. They are cheap (around $2.50 a piece), easy to put on and easy to clean up after. My face felt great afterwards, no breakout that I can see (even though my skin is usually pretty sensitive to that) and I had a fun time with it.

You can connect with Montagne Jeunesse on their website at www.montagnejeunesse.com or visit their social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or YouTube.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Do You Trekaroo?

Last year I was blessed enough to be searching through the blog of a friend when I stumbled upon her post about Trekaroo. At the time, I'll be perfectly honest here, the thing that attracted me most about what she'd written was that there would be an Amazon gift card involved for people who were able to contribute lots of good reviews. That was enough for me!

Writing has been a huge passion for me since I was about 6 years old, so I knew I'd be able to post the reviews up with no problem. What I wasn't expecting though, was that I'd come to love and depend upon this website for hints about my everyday excursions with the kids, and especially when it came to traveling out-of-town or even out-of-state with them.

The thing about Trekaroo that sets them apart from other travel sites is that they are geared specifically for families with children, especially young children. Any mother who has had a bad 'surprise' experience at the zoo, the park, even the doctor's office - you know exactly what I mean when I say there are some things that would be really nice to know ahead of time. Like the fact that you can't fit a stroller into the bathroom at a certain aquarium. Or that there is NO baby changing table at that cute diner you stopped at on the road. (You know, the one that has nothing else around for miiiles.) Or maybe that the theme park you brought your kids to has a lot more walking than you expected and you have to leave the stroller behind (unattended) to get to a lot of the areas.

Think I'm making any of this up? Don't. This is all stuff that has happened to me while traveling on the road since I've had my kids. Long story short: I almost got my stroller removed by security at the aquarium because it was an unattended object. I got to drive allllllll the way home with baby poop down the front of my shirt - and all over the back of my baby - when I discovered that there was no changer in that diner bathroom. And the theme park? Let's just say mommy will never do that one again until both kids are walking. My arms got so tired.

When I have experiences like this I head home and log onto my Trekaroo account to write about what happened to me and read up on what other parents thought of the place. Sometimes I see it there, glaring back at me in black & white (then kick myself for not checking up on it first): "There is NO changing table at this diner!!!!" And sometimes I'm the one spreading the news: "This place is great, but the stroller? Not in the bathroom!" It's a great way for parents to let others know about those uh-oh moments without us all having to go through them!

It's not just for the bad times though... Trekaroo is also great to share about some of the excellent places you've been. The great finds, the super-cheerful librarian, the delicious food, the freebies for kids under a certain age - it's what other moms & dads want to know.

But sites like this only work when readers like you decide to give it a try! Although they are getting hundreds of thousands of site hits each month, there can always be more. Where have you been recently that you had a great experience - or maybe a not-so-great one? 'Trekaroo' about it on trekaroo.com and become part of an awesome travel community for parents in-the-know!

You can connect with Trekaroo on their website, or find them in social media on their Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages!

Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post and, as always, my opinions are purely my own.

Is DIY worth it?: Knit Hats

With the economy still trying to bounce back to normal, many families are feeling the pinch of a tight budget. Because of this, Do-It-Yourself kits and How-To guides have had a rise in popularity. But with companies able to mass-produce items at a cheap cost, are we really saving ourselves any money? Or are we just stretching ourselves thin?

Last year, I set out to see if I could make a cute knitted hat for my daughter at a cheaper cost than I could get it in a store.

Because I only know how to crochet, I was faced with two choices: Buy a book on how-to knit along with some knitting needles, or buy a knitting loom kit. Because I thought learning to knit on a loom might be easier (and therefore cost me less time to make the hat), I bought the loom. I ended up purchasing the Boye Round Loom Set because it is great for making round items like socks & hats.

The prices for this loom range anywhere from $12 to $32 (not including tax). For this experiment, we will use the average price of around $20.

Next I had to get a type of yarn that I thought would work nicely and be soft enough that I would want it on my baby's head. I ended up getting Bernat Pipsqueak Yarn. Not only was it soft and fuzzy, but it came in a lot of baby colors that would match just about anything I wanted. The yarn can be regularly purchased at Jo-Ann Fabric for about $3.99.

At this point, I had $24 invested in my project to get a cute hat for my baby. The loom itself was easy enough to use, but it still took me three hours to make a hat. My time is worth about $15 per hour, so I added another $45 dollars onto the hat price.

So hypothetically, making a single hat cost me about $73.00. This isn't a great deal when you consider all the hats I could have purchased. When I Googled "soft fuzzy knit baby hat", it came back with shopping results for hats that were similar to mine, but in the $10 to $30 dollar range. Even if I hadn't counted my time spent as part of the cost of the hat, it still ends up costing $24. For the sake of my own cheapness, I will count it as $24, because that is what I spent on materials.

Of course, I did have materials left - that's one of the benefits of DIY. From the yarn that was left, I decided I could easily make another ten hats. Does the average person need eleven hats that are exactly the same? No. Did I make them anyways? Absolutely! Leftover materials are great for making gifts for family and friends, and as long as you have free time here and there (and are willing to learn to knit), you won't need to worry about buying a baby gift again for a while. (Three people I know of are having babies quite soon actually, and yes, they are all getting surprise-baby-hat gifts.) So, if I say that I got eleven hats out of my $24, it suddenly becomes a lot easier to swallow the cost. That comes out to a mere $2.20 a hat.

All in all I spent three hours and 24 dollars making this little hat for my little darling. Not very cost-effective unless I plan to make them by the dozen. But I can't argue with the fact that she does look downright adorable in it. And how do you put a price on that?

Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post, and as always, my opinions are purely my own.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Super Snack for the Super Bowl

No Super Bowl party is complete without snacks! Ask the majority of men what to make though, and they'll tell you: forget the veggie tray and bring on the meat. But there is a way to make a great tasting snack that has meat and is healthy. The trick is to hide the vegetables by wrapping them in the meat! (I'm actually serious.)

 Ham & Celery Rolls - Makes 20 regular servings or 40 mini servings

Ingredients:
2 bags of celery
1 container of cream cheese
2 packages (containing 10 slices each) of rectangular-shaped ham
1 jar of Spanish (green) olives

You'll also need toothpicks, so don't forget to pick some up at the store if you don't already have them!

Healthy Super Bowl Snack

This recipe is cheap, easy, quick and absolutely delicious. These never last more than half an hour when I put them out for a group, and you're not only giving your body a satisfying meat-snack, but you're sneaking in a veggie that has a lot of antioxidants and is great for your digestive tract. As an added bonus, celery leaves you feeling full and satisfied, which means that you'll be less likely to gorge yourself on calorie-drenched foods later. Want to make this snack as low-cal as possible? Substitute the cream cheese for neufch√Ętel cheese and purchase extra-lean ham from the deli counter.

Here is a quick vid of me demonstrating how to make them. Sorry about my little one crying in the background towards the end, I'll try and get an updated version of this clip out soon - preferably one with a better video camera!


When you're finished making your rolls, the celery bag makes a great trash bag to pick up all the celery pieces that you don't want. As for the celery bundle itself, there will always be stalks that were too small to use for this recipe. Chop these up and stick them in the freezer to use in soups or stir-frys later. I like to keep the ruffled tops of the celery to toss into a pot anytime I am making homemade broth. Just remember to use them if you keep them - there's no sense in trying to be thrifty and filling your freezer full of odds & ends if you never remember to use them up!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Kickin' Chicken Salad Recipe

This salad recipe is one of my own little side creations, and it has a sweet-spicy zing to it that starts out mellow and gains some bite as you chew! The heat doesn't overwhelm, and the flavor is fantastic thanks to the Bone Suckin' Mustard featured as a key ingredient. And if you aren't a big fan of hot foods, you can tone down the spice without losing the taste simply by adding a dollop of sour cream to your creation before serving.

This recipe is wonderfully simple, and doesn't take up a lot of time or money to make. Please know that the mustard used in this recipe is around $6.79 a jar, but it lasts a long time and is incredibly versatile. We consider it a cooking staple in this house. You can read my full review on it here.

Kickin' Chicken Salad (Serves 4)
Ingredients:

  • One large boneless, skinless chicken breast (Chicken still frozen? No problem! You can use thawed or frozen chicken in this recipe.)
  • 1/2 of a medium, yellow onion; chopped
  • 2 eggs; beaten
  • 1 cup olive oil mayo (I use the olive oil type to help burn calories faster, but you can use any mayo in this recipe.)
  • 1 tablespoon Bone Suckin' Mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Sour cream for garnish (optional)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar or vinegar-based salad dressing for cooking the chicken

Directions:

Place 1-1/2 cups of water in a shallow pan along with the 1/2 cup of vinegar or vinegar-based salad dressing. The vinegar in this solution will help the chicken to remain tender throughout the cooking process.

Turn the heat on medium-high and place the chicken breast in the pan, covered, for 8-10 minutes. Make sure to flip the chicken after 4-5 minutes to make sure both sides are thoroughly cooked. Chop your onions while the chicken is cooking to save time!

Put the beaten eggs into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for one minute. I like to place a paper towel over the top to make sure that nothing will pop out and splatter, but if you have beaten them well enough there should be no splatter.

Remove the eggs from the microwave and chop them up. Don't worry if there is a little liquid left over after the minute of cooking time, that will cook up during the chopping since eggs continue to cook after they are removed from their heat source.

Check your chicken after it has cooked for 8 minutes by cutting through the center to make sure there is no pink left. If there is still pink, allow the chicken to cook for another minute or two. If the chicken is white throughout, transfer it to a cutting board.

Chop the chicken and then add it into a medium-sized bowl with chopped onions and chopped eggs.

Mix in the mayo, Bone Suckin' Mustard, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and stir well.

You can eat it as-is, or put it in the fridge for half an hour to chill it. Serve as you wish (lettuce bed, wraps, bread, etc.) with sour cream on the side for a garnish.

Enjoy!

Review: Bone Suckin' Mustard

I've been on kind of a health kick lately, and with that came a change in the way I shop and where I shop. I've been spending a lot more time at the Whole Foods store and was pumped to find that they not only offer store activities on certain days of the month, but also do routine events with food sampling. There are few things I love when shopping as much as being able to taste-test before I buy. Not only does it help to stave off food cravings (which can cause you to go home with a lot more than you planned to buy) but it can allow you to discover something you never would have purchased on a whim.

The Bone Suckin' Mustard that I found at Whole Foods was exactly one of those items. They were serving it alongside soft pretzel bites (one of my weaknesses) and although I have never been a huge fan of mustard with my pretzels, I went for it.

This mustard is billed as 'sweet-hot', which fits it perfectly. When I first tasted it, I was impressed with the flavor because it was sweet, but it had an underlying zing to it. As it sat on my tongue though, it began to get hot - but not so hot as to lessen the flavor. The balance was perfect between sweet and spicy: my initial reaction would have been to let my toddler eat it, but within seconds the heat kicks in. I love the fact that even though it is a 'hot' mustard, the heat is never so intense that I don't want another bite or feel like my tongue is on fire. Needless to say, I was hooked on this stuff.

Although a decent sized jar of this mustard runs at about $6.79, it has been money well-spent. I didn't really know much about the product or the company before I bought some, and I was thrilled to find that I wasn't the only one that thought this stuff was pretty great - the company has been featured in magazines, won awards, and has even been around for over 20 years!

One of the biggest benefits about this sauce (for me anyhow) is the fact that I can be guilt-free when I feed it to my family. I have a genuine concern about the bad 'extras' that make their way into our foods; so to discover that this sauce is all natural, gluten free, non-GMO and doesn't contain anything like high fructose corn syrup or preservatives was an awesome find for me!

As an added bargain, this mustard is really versatile. I mean, you can put it in pretty much anything to spice up your recipes and everyone will wonder where you got the great flavor from. And a little bit goes a long way - that means that one jar will last you for quite a few meals & recipes. Rarely do I find a condiment that I consider a 'must-have' for the house, but this is an item that we buy more of as soon as we run out now. I see it as a cooking staple, simply because of the multitude of food I now use it in to add flavor. I love that I can kick up my dinners and lunches without having to add lots of salt or unhealthy ingredients.

Follow the link here to see the Kickin' Chicken Salad recipe pictured at right. It's delicious and tastes great whether you put it on sandwiches or a bed of lettuce!

Want to find out where you can grab some of this sauce for your very own? You can check out the Bone Suckin' website at www.bonesuckin.com. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or YouTube!

Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post, and as always, my opinions are purely my own.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Welcome to 2014!

Well, I surely would have liked to celebrate in high-fashion today, since this is technically the one-year anniversary of my blog; but life had different plans for me in the past month or so and I've been dealing with a slew of different problems. That just seems to be part of God's plan for my life though, and dealing with new and sometimes strange obstacles is just what keeps the mix interesting for me.

Although I didn't have the money to have a real celebratory-type of giveaway this week, I'm still celebrating the fact that I've been doing this for a whole year. It's been rough for me over the years to stay focused on any one thing due to my A.D.D., and when I tack on my chronic migraines and chronic fatigue problems, it makes this one-year marker a huge occasion for me!

However, I don't believe in stopping when you get to a goal, I believe it's just a reason to step up your game and set the bar higher for the next goal! I also think that putting your goals up online (whether it's on Facebook to your friends or announcing it to the entire world like I am right now) really makes you try a bit harder. So here is a short list of my goals, in no particular order, that I would like to accomplish by my 2nd year blogging anniversary!


  • Lose 40 pounds. I'm at 197 right now, and it's been so difficult to get rid of the baby weight this time around. I'm already eating right, I just need to start exercising more!
  • Take my kids someplace fun at least once a week! It's hard to find time to do everything that I want to get done in a day, but I realized recently that if I have to cut something, I don't want it to be the time that I spend with my kids. I want them to grow up learning about the world around them, and if I'm going to make that happen, they need to be spending less time indoors, and more time at places like the park and beach.
  • Write up at least 2 blog posts a day. Now I know that this one is going to be a bit tricky simply because I do suffer quite frequently from migraines and I'm also so fatigued some days that I can't even get out of bed. I'm also determined to take off from blogging on the weekends so that I can spend some time with my family. So really, this is more like a 'write up at least 2 posts on any day that I can get out of bed on a weekday' goal. I have been guilty during the past few months of not posting as much as I could or as often as I should, and pushing things off for 'another day'. It's mostly because I feel like I'm missing out on so much life while I'm out of it that I get the craving to catch up on me-time, but it's also due to bad time-management. I'm going to try and kick that once and for all.
  • Find out what the cause of my constant fatigue is! I'm getting really tired (no pun intended!) of never being able to do anything because I'm too exhausted to get up. I finally found an awesome doctor that is giving me a referral to a neurologist for a sleep study, so maybe this will be the year I stop feeling like half a person!
  • Wake up at 8 every day, stop working by 5pm every day, and go to bed before midnight (unless it's a special occasion). I have a really hard time getting into a set sleep schedule because of my constant need to nap. I know it will be hard to stay awake all day, but I'm hoping that if I start sticking to a sleep plan that it will be easier to go all day without falling asleep.
  • Spend more time with my husband. Oddly enough, my husband and I spend a lot of time near each other, but not a lot of time with each other. I was faced with the harsh thought a couple of weeks ago that if I lost him I would have a ton of regret about all the stuff we never did. So this year, I'm going to really push for quality time: making meals together, taking walks together, family movies, the whole kit-and-caboodle.

So there we have it. My goals for the year. Hopefully they will be ones that I can keep and not ones that get forgotten in just a few weeks' time. You as my readers will have to give me a poke now and again if you see I've failed on the frequent blogging, and as for the rest, I'm sure that only time will tell! How about your family? Did any of you make interesting New Year's resolutions?

From my family to yours, have a fantastic 2014!!!